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Fireplace Safety Tips
by Judy Browne

One of the best things about winter and cold weather may be snuggling up in front of a warm fireplace. Proper maintenance and safety practices are essential to prevent a tragedy, please be careful this winter.

Before you use your fireplace each season take the time to visually inspect the fireplace. Using a strong flashlight look into your chimney to check for cracks, obstructions (such as bird’s nests and debris) and creosote buildup. Creosote is created during the burning of wood, it starts out as a liquid and condenses on the inner walls of the chimney or flue, as it dries it hardens. Failing to remove creosote can cause chimney fires. Contact a professional chimney sweep to have your chimney serviced and cleaned if you see any potential problems.

Tips for safely enjoying your fireplace:

  • Use dry wood. It is best to split wood and let it dry for a year before you use it. Dried wood creates less smoke and burns more evenly. If you’ve ever built a campfire with wet wood and had the smoke burn your eyes, this suggestion will make sense.
  • Never use painted or pressure-treated wood or particle board. These woods are treated with chemicals which could be released into the air.
  • Place a screen in front of the fireplace to stop sparks from entering the room.
  • Make sure the damper is open before staring the fire and keep it open.
  • A fireplace requires a large amount of fresh air to burn properly. If there is not enough fresh air it could create a reverse draft which could draw carbon monoxide fumes from furnaces or other gas fired appliance such as water heaters into the house.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Be sure no embers are still burning when disposing of ashes. Put the ashes in a fireproof (metal) container with a lid and store them on a non-combustible (concrete) floor away from anything that might catch on fire.

For more detailed information about fire safety visit the US Fire Administration Website:

About the author:

Judy Browne is the creator and founder of Workshop for Women, LLC. Workshop for Women offers fun hands-on classes in basic home improvement skills especially designed for women. Classes include: Power Tools, Carpentry, Pluming, Electrical, Drywall Repair and more. Visit for more information or give Judy a call at 303-284-6354.